The Walking Dead Season 8 spoilers below
The Walking Dead has a long history of foreshadowing its big events. From twists and deaths to symbolism and metaphor, its producers and writers love to hint at what’s to come–sometimes subtly, sometimes a lot less so. So how did the show foreshadow Carl’s death in Season 8?
While viewers had to wait months to find out which major characters were leaving the show at the start of Season 7, Carl’s death was played differently. We’ve known since December that Chandler Riggs has been written out, giving us time to look back over the past eight episodes to see what signs and hints were left about Carl’s death. And in true Walking Dead style, there were a few. Let’s take a look.
7. Opening walk
Season 8 starts with an exact, almost shot-for-shot recreation of the opening of the very first episode, but this time it’s Carl instead of Rick looking for gas in a field of abandoned cars. At the time, this just seemed to be a neat way of showing how the characters have grown and changed over the course of seven years, and that Carl was now Rick’s equal as a survivor. But it now carries an extra poignancy, establishing Carl as the character around which the season’s biggest moment will later revolve.
6. “My mercy prevails over my wrath”
It was clear from the very start of Season 8 that there was some terrible tragedy awaiting Rick. There are frequent shots of his weepy eyes throughout the entire first half of the season, plus murmured voiceovers about mercy overcoming wrath. While we didn’t know what was making Rick so sad or when it would occur, it was clearly a big deal. The Walking Dead frequently kills off major characters without any prolonged build-up, so this event was going to rock the show.
5. The future?
Those sad Rick inserts were usually accompanied by dreamlike visions of what seemed to be a happy future featuring Rick (with a big grey beard), Carl, Judith, and, er, the music of Weird Al Yankovic. But this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen strange fantasies about characters who had met unpleasant endings–Glenn and Abraham also featured in one in Season 7. Of course, we now know that these visions were in fact Carl’s, as he imagines a blissful future that will never happen.
4. “Your boy’s gonna die!”
Rick is used to threats being thrown at himself, his friends, and his family, so he shrugged off this prediction that Carl will die made by a wounded Savior in Season 8’s opening episode. After all, the guy was about to die himself, what else is he gonna say? But of course, this was a classic case of Walking Dead foreshadowing. The Savior checks out a few minutes later, devoured by a walker that Rick cuts loose. But sadly, he was right all along.
3. Once bitten
We see Carl get bitten two episodes before it’s fully revealed. In Episode 6, Carl is seen fighting two zombies–there’s a fleeting shot where he registers that something bad has happened. He subsequently tells Siddiq that he is OK, but showrunner Scott Gimple later confirmed that this is the exact moment when Carl’s fate is determined. “It’s on screen,” he told AMC’s discussion show The Talking Dead. “The aftermath is very much on screen. If you watch [that] episode [you can] see it on Carl’s face.”
2. Goodbye letters
Before the final reveal at the end of Episode 8, Carl writes a series of letters, one of them addressed to “Dad.” While it’s always good to stay in touch with your folks, it seems unlikely that you’d waste time in the middle of a zombie apocalypse to sit down and write a letter to your father unless you had something really important to say. And as it turns out, he did.
1. “Kill me”
In Episode 8, Carl pleads with Negan to kill him in order to stop the war. At the time, it seemed that it was purely a selfless, brave decision, as Carl puts his friends and family ahead of himself. But by this point, Carl knows he is going to die anyway, so this decision is also a way to give his death meaning and lasting impact. The sad desperation in his voice is clear on a rewatch, giving the scene real punch. Time is short, and this could’ve been a way to end the war.
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